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    “If you have a lover in the knights, you should have just said so. Don’t be so mysterious.”

    “I told you, he’s not my lover.”

    While having this exchange for who knows how many times, Rinda was walking side by side with Kenneth inside the guard post. His body was exhausted from the end of the day’s work, but he still had enough energy to engage in banter. Today was unusually busy with overtime, so it had gotten a bit late. Gale and Shan were probably already asleep by now.

    Regarding the Gigs Village case, when Rinda reported it to Vice-Captain Razlee, he easily approved, saying, “This is… yeah. It looks like our squad will be in charge of the investigation.” By the way, when Kenneth told him, “This guy seems to have properly understood our squad’s purpose,” Razlee made a surprised face at first, then smiled happily as if praising him, saying, “Not bad.”

    “I’m very happy to have a competent rookie join us. I look forward to working with you.”

    When Razlee said that and shook his hand, his grip was very warm, and for some reason, Rinda was moved. Was it this joyful to be acknowledged by one’s comrades? Housework was also an important job, but working while interacting with people like this brought a different sense of fulfillment.

    In any case, today’s work was over. Muttering “Closing time, closing time” in his mind, Rinda let out a sigh. Whether it was fulfilling or not, being tired was still tiring.

    It was Rinda who called out to Kenneth, who had stood up at the same time, saying, “Ah, shall we go home together part of the way?” Kenneth blinked his eyes and said, “Rookie, you’re a rare one.”

    “Not many people want to be with me. Especially outside of work.”

    “Is that so?”

    Although Kenneth had a sharp personality, it wasn’t to the extent that being with him was painful. For Rinda, who had grown up surrounded by brothers with various personalities, it was just a matter of being “unique.” Well, if you had to say, he was intense.

    From there, they chatted about work and then went back to talking about the earlier encounter with the knights. While Rinda didn’t want to bring up the topic again, Kenneth was very interested.

    “You don’t have to hide it. Love is free.”

    “How many times do I have to tell you? That guy is not my lover. I was bullied by him during my student days, you know?”

    “I see. It’s the ‘I want to bully the one I like’ thing, huh?”

    “Geez, come on.”

    No matter what Rinda said, Kenneth had a rebuttal. Rinda felt like tearing his hair out. Kenneth was laughing with his mouth wide open. …And at that moment.

    “Rinda.”

    Suddenly called by name, Rinda turned around. Behind him stood a person with an exceptionally good physique.

    In the dim light just outside the guard post, Rinda immediately realized “who” that person was.

    “Oh, Nii-san!”

    The one standing there was Fang. Rinda ran up to Fang in surprise.

    “What’s the matter? Are you on your way home?”

    “I stopped by the squad to see Tag’s captain and heard you had just finished work. So I chased after you.”

    “I see. Are you done with work too, Brother?”

    When Rinda asked, looking at the luggage tucked under Fang’s arm, Fang nodded, “Yeah.” Then, he briefly glanced at Kenneth, who was standing beside Rinda. As if sensing it, Kenneth straightened his back with a snap.

    “Kenneth Cranston, Tag Green Squad.”

    In the Holy Knights, it was customary for subordinates to introduce themselves first. To Kenneth, who stood at attention and saluted, Fang introduced himself, saying, “Fang Azrael, captain of the Azrael Squad. Thank you for always taking care of my brother.”

    If they were introducing themselves like this, was this the first time they had met face to face? Rinda glanced back and forth between their faces and thought, “It’s an unlikely combination, but it kind of works.” Fang, who exuded a strict and calm aura at first glance, and Kenneth, who had a slender and flamboyant appearance but a rambunctious personality inside.

    (It’s kind of, um, a weird combination.)

    While nodding secretly to himself, Kenneth called out to Fang, saying, “Um, Captain Azrael.”

    “The brother who’s interfering with Rook… Rinda Azrael’s love life, is that referring to you, Captain Azrael?”

    Unable to fully comprehend the content of Kenneth’s nonchalant question, Rinda momentarily froze with a smile on his face. Or rather, he might have briefly fainted.

    “Love life? …Interfering?”

    And then, Rinda regained consciousness at the sound of Fang’s low… ground-crawling low voice.

    “Ke-Ke-Kenneth?!”

    Rinda called out Kenneth’s name first, wondering what he was saying. Next, he looked at his brother, who for some reason had started emitting a pitch-black aura, and recoiled, saying, “Eek!”

    “What’s this about Rinda’s love life?”

    “Huh? It’s about his knight lover. He said his brothers were against it, so I assumed it was you, Captain Fang, who was opposing it.”

    Rinda screamed, “Gaaaah!” at Kenneth, who casually uttered such an outrageous statement.

    “Rinda’s… knight lover?”

    “No, no, no! There isn’t, there isn’t, there isn’t! Brother, you don’t need to listen anymore! It’s not true!”

    For some reason, Rinda felt like the temperature around Fang was dropping the more he listened to the story. Rinda shook his head… no, his whole body, denying Kenneth’s words. No, it was a complete misunderstanding, so there was no need to panic, but whenever he sensed Fang’s angry aura, he couldn’t help but make excuses. It was like a habit developed from growing up as brothers for many years.

    “You were holding hands earlier, weren’t you?”

    “I wasn’t holding hands! He just grabbed me!”

    Even though Rinda screamed, Kenneth tilted his head with a puzzled look on his face. Rinda had a hunch, but it seemed Kenneth had seriously believed Owen’s words. He might be straightforward in a way, but this was bad. This situation was not good at all.

    “Rinda.”

    Rinda trembled and then timidly looked up at Fang.

    “Y-yes…”

    “I’m also going home to the Azrael house today. I have some luggage to sort out.”

    Without touching on the subject of lovers or anything, Fang made a declaration. Rinda, unable to keep up with the suddenly changed topic, gave a vague response, saying, “Huh, what, oh, okay?”

    “Kenneth Cranston.”

    Fang called out Kenneth’s name.

    “Thank you for the valuable information. I wasn’t aware of that issue, but I will positively consider Rinda’s love life.”

    To Fang, who answered seriously no matter what, Kenneth also seriously nodded, saying, “Yes, sir. Please take care of it.” Rinda was the only one who felt dizzy at this exchange and looked up at the sky.

    “Rinda.”

    Called by name, Rinda slowly shifted his gaze to Fang.

    “Let’s go.”

    Having been brothers for many years, Rinda could tell Fang’s mood by the tone of his voice. Happy, cheerful, rarely sad, and… angry.

    (He’s ang… angry, yep, he’s angry.)

    Was it because he was suddenly treated like a meddlesome brother by a junior who said, “Don’t interfere with your brother’s love life,” or was there some other reason? In any case, the wrinkles etched between his eyebrows told of his displeasure. Fang wasn’t the type to outwardly show his mood, but the one thing that was easy to understand was the number and depth of those wrinkles.

    “Ah, but… Kenneth, about going together part of the way…”

    When Rinda looked at Kenneth with half-genuine feelings and half-pleading for help, Kenneth once again nodded with a face like an “understanding boss.”

    “Don’t worry about me. Just talk to your brother properly and go home.”

    With a wink thrown at him, Rinda could only let out a dry laugh, saying, “Haha…” Not only did he have to clear up the angry Fang’s misunderstanding, but he also had to properly resolve this superior’s misunderstanding, or it would cause trouble later. Or rather, it had already become a huge pain.

    “Your boyfriend, he may be a muscle-head, but he seems like a good guy. If your brothers see his character, they might approve of him, don’t you think?”

    Whether it was rude or not, Kenneth sent over a rather misguided encouragement and nodded repeatedly. Because he raised his voice strangely, the content seemed to have reached Fang’s ears as well. A heavy sigh that could hardly be called a sigh was heard, and Rinda’s shoulders jumped.

    “Um, well, yes, I’m going home. I’m going home now.”

    Staying here any longer would only bring harm and no benefit. Rinda, who had already shouldered dark clouds, pushed Fang’s back as if urging him, and started walking towards the Azrael house.

    “Well then, Kenneth, please excuse us.”

    With a brief greeting and a quick bow, Kenneth raised his hand and said, “Yeah, see you.” He probably wasn’t a bad person at heart. Well, probably.

    ***

    “So?”

    Sitting on a single-seater sofa, Fang casually asked Rinda.

    “So… what you mean is…”

    This was the Azrael house, Fang’s room. The newly established eldest son’s room was spacious like the other brothers’ rooms. Or rather, there were still few belongings. Because Fang was too busy, the moving process was not progressing well. The only things in the room now were a large bed, a single-seater sofa, and a work desk piled high with documents. Since Fang sat on the sofa, Rinda had no choice but to sit on the bed.

    By the way, when Rinda asked what Fang was doing in his one-person apartment after moving the bed, he received an absurd answer, saying, “I’m sleeping in a sleeping bag.” Rinda thought it wasn’t a camping trip, but Fang had a completely serious face. Then, perhaps noticing Rinda’s suspicious look, Fang added as if making an excuse, “I sometimes use the nap room at the guard post too.” Rinda furrowed his brow even more, but Fang didn’t seem to understand the intention behind that expression.

    Fang’s room was at the very back of the house, at the end of the hallway. Rinda and the others had returned home past midnight, so everyone was already asleep.

    It seemed that Philly was in charge of dinner tonight, and egg dishes were lined up on the dining table. For some reason, Philly only made dishes using eggs.

    Rinda and Fang ate it in silence, and while feeling awkward (though it might have just been Rinda), they each took a bath. Then, just as Rinda was about to sneak into his room, he was stopped by Fang calling out, “Rinda.” Rinda, who had thought he would sleep as if nothing had happened, jumped his shoulders and headed to Fang’s room with a feeling like a prisoner being led to the guillotine.

    “You got a lover? And a knight at that?”

    When Fang said that heavily, Rinda immediately shook his head.

    “No, that’s not it. You know I don’t have a lover, right, Brother? That was Kenneth’s misunderstanding.”

    “Misunderstanding?”

    When Fang raised an eyebrow, Rinda continued his story in rapid succession, thinking this was the time to push.

    “Well, you see, today while on patrol, we met some people from the knights, and one of them was, um… a classmate. And then, somehow, as a bad joke, it turned into a conversation like ‘he’s my lover.’ Yeah, it was just a bad joke.”

    “I see.”

    Rinda explained what happened today while gesturing. Of course, it wasn’t a lie, but there were many parts he omitted, like about Owen. Or rather, he omitted a lot.

    (Come to think of it, why am I making excuses in such a hurry?)

    Whether Rinda had a lover or not, it shouldn’t be detrimental to Fang. Although he had doubts, he also felt guilty. It was an indescribable awkwardness, as if his infidelity had been exposed.

    (Huh, why infidelity? Because nii-san and I are…)

    Before facing his own painful feelings, Fang opened his mouth.

    “That classmate you mentioned, it’s not the guy who was chasing after you before, is it?”

    “…Huh?”

    “Owen Evans. It’s not the man from whom you accidentally sucked out his essence, right?”

    Rinda was at a loss for words at Fang’s overly sharp question. First and foremost, he was surprised that Owen’s full name had come out of Fang’s mouth. He never thought that Fang had such a firm grasp of Owen’s information.

    “Huh? Huh? No, um, uh…”

    Moving his gaze left and right, Rinda desperately searched for an excuse. This was as good as saying, “Yes, you’re right, Brother.”

    Seeing Rinda’s confusion, Fang slowly stood up. Then, he walked up to Rinda and placed one knee on the bed with a creak. With a hand placed on his shoulder as if looming over him, Rinda looked up at his brother as if recoiling.

    “Well, is it?”

    Faced with that attitude that seemed to say he wouldn’t allow lies or excuses, Rinda mumbled, “Well, that,” and then drooped his head dejectedly.

    “That’s… right, yeah. The other person was him, Owen.”

    Saying that as if half-giving up, Rinda pushed his brother’s thick chest with his hand, as he seemed about to lean over him.

    “Wait, huh, what, what’s going on?”

    Pushed by Fang’s thick body, Rinda fell onto the bed with his hands placed in front of his chest. Sandwiched between Fang’s scent in front and behind, he felt dizzy.

    “Hm?”

    Or rather, he was actually dizzy. Rinda wriggled his nose and looked up at Fang, who was looming over him.

    “Nii-san… are you emitting essence or something?”

    Rinda hurriedly covered his face with both hands at the fragrant scent of essence that made him want to lick his lips unconsciously.

    It wasn’t like he sensed the scent of essence with his nose, so covering it didn’t make much sense, but… well, it was a matter of feeling.

    (Ugh, but still… it smells so delicious.)

    Just like Cain, Fang’s essence was too familiar to Rinda’s body, and when offered, he automatically wanted to lick it up. That’s why the special training to “resist” it was quite useful… but when it was released without any warning, the succubus’s stomach would make a painful sound, “ugh.”

    “What, you’re not going to suck it? …Don’t tell me you’re already filled with someone else’s essence.”

    “Huh? What?”

    Fang’s rough hand lifted Rinda’s chin. When his face was touched by a hand with a high body temperature, just that made his cheeks gradually heat up.

    “Did you suck his essence and get filled with it?”

    “Mm, no way. Kenneth and the other knights were there too.”

    Realizing that “he” referred to Owen, Rinda shook his head vigorously.

    “If there were no other people around, would you have sucked it? Your lover’s essence.”

    “What? N-no, that’s not it. Him calling me his lover was just a joke, no, he was teasing me…”

    Rinda tried to interject, asking why it would turn out that way, but Fang’s fierce attack didn’t stop.

    “A joke? Teasing?”

    Fang lifted the corner of his mouth and laughed faintly, saying, “Hah.” Fang rarely smiled in the first place, which is why his mocking laughter was frightening. It was different from morbid curiosity, but in any case, Rinda couldn’t take his eyes off that face. If he looked away, he felt a fear that Fang would bite into his throat.

    “He’s serious, isn’t he?”

    “Serious? You mean Owen? No way. I mean, it’s ‘me’ we’re talking about.”

    “…What do you mean?”

    Fang, who had been making a face like a baring beast, slightly widened his eyes and stopped moving. Then, he slowly asked as if trying to discern Rinda’s true intentions.

    “What do I mean… it’s exactly as I said.”

    “Because it’s Rinda, he’s not serious?”

    “Of course. Even if it’s you or Cain, why would he like someone like me?”

    Trying to laugh it off as a joke, Rinda noticed that Fang, whom he was looking up at, wasn’t laughing at all.

    “Brother?”

    Rinda was reflected in Fang’s black eyes. Tilting his head in wonder, gazing up at his brother with a puzzled look. That Rinda swayed, narrowed, and disappeared. Because Fang had closed his eyes. Fang, with the shadow of his eyelashes on his cheeks, swiftly opened his almond-shaped eyes a moment later.

    “Why do you think the affection directed towards you isn’t real?”

    Surprised by the unexpected words, Rinda blinked and said, “Huh?”

    “No, I mean, Owen is the least trustworthy guy… and besides, there’s no way someone would like me in the first place.”

    Rinda spoke the first part strongly and the latter half a bit quickly.

    “Why? Why wouldn’t Rinda be liked?”

    Asked again, Rinda blinked his eyes. Why was Fang seriously asking such a thing at this moment? While feeling perplexed, Rinda organized the answer in his head, saying, “Why, you ask.”

    “Compared to you and Cain, I don’t have any particular strengths, my face isn’t good-looking, and if there’s anything, it’s probably the power of a succubus.”

    “The power of a succubus?”

    Rinda was troubled by his brother, who was asking persistently. It was rare for Fang to question him like this. Fang was a strict person, but he had a personality of “find the answer yourself” and wasn’t the type to interrogate and make others search for answers.

    “Yeah. No… if someone likes me, I think it’s thanks to the power of a succubus. I mean, you know, there’s… nothing attractive about me myself.”

    Still, Rinda searched for the best answer he could give and conveyed it.

    However, would putting this into words now quell his brother’s anger?

    “Rinda.”

    Called by name, Rinda raised his face and realized he had been looking down. When he looked at Fang, his brother had a more difficult expression than usual. However, it was different from anger. Somehow, it also seemed like he was worried about Rinda.

    “Huh, Nii-san?”

    Before he knew it, the scent of essence that had been flowing seductively had subsided.

    Fang remained silent for a while. After a while, he finally let out a heavy breath, saying, “Haa.”

    “Is it because you’ve had your magic sealed for a long time that you lack confidence in yourself?”

    “Huh?”

    Rinda tilted his head at the sudden words. How did being liked or whatever connect to that? Fang pulled Rinda’s arm as he looked up. In no time, he was embraced, and the two of them tumbled onto the bed together.

    (Because I had my magic sealed?)

    Ruminating on the words Fang had said to him, Rinda suddenly let his thoughts wander to the past.

    Indeed, Rinda often felt inferior because he couldn’t use magic. He wanted to become a holy knight but couldn’t, his younger brothers were quickly surpassing him, and he was the only one among his brothers who was falling behind. He had thought about it countless times.

    “But, that was… in order for me not to suck essence, or rather, it was necessary for me to live as a human. Something like that…”

    “Rinda.”

    In the middle of trying to say that he understood, Rinda’s name was called by Fang. It was a very straightforward voice, without a trace of the earlier anger. Not understanding the reason for the change, Rinda trembled.

    “The power of an incubus, everything included, you are you. The fact that everything is part of your charm doesn’t change.”

    Rinda braced himself for what he would be told, but what was thrown at him head-on were unexpectedly kind words. Rinda timidly opened his eyes and looked at Fang’s face, which was usually above him and difficult to see clearly. Strong and straight eyebrows, almond-shaped eyes underneath them, and black eyes that could seem cold always housed a strong will burning like a flame.

    “But whether you have the power of an incubus or not, my brother… Rinda Azrael is a sufficiently charming person.”

    “Nii-san.”

    A hand reached out above Rinda’s head. After lightly patting him, he was gently stroked with a tender touch, as if handling a small kitten. Slowly, as if conveying that this conversation was his honest feelings without any lies.

    “You are you. There’s no need to compare yourself to anyone, and there’s no need to put yourself down.”

    Suddenly, tears welled up in the corners of Rinda’s eyes, and he hurriedly blinked to let the moisture escape.

    “Whoa, huh? Sorry…”

    He was surprised at why tears had welled up and let out a voice.

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